The Eyewitness News Breakfast Brief

Eyewitness News previews a selection of the news that you will find on the website today.

Picture: Engin Akyurt/Pixabay

On this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "military operation" in Ukraine on Thursday and called on soldiers there to lay down their arms, defying Western outrage and global appeals not to launch a war.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana's maiden Budget Speech has been mostly hailed for a balanced approach that brings much-needed relief to hard-pressed consumers. Tabling the national budget yesterday, Godongwana announced no major tax increases, saying this was not the time, given SA's fragile economic recovery. With the mining commodities boom bringing in much higher than expected tax revenue, Godongwana has used the projected 182 billion rand bonanza to pay down some of the government's 4 trillion rand debt, increase support for the poor and unemployed and boost the coffers of government departments hard-hit by budget cuts. He's putting more than 5 billion rand back into people's pockets through tax relief and has kept fuel prices down by not increasing either the general fuel or the Road Accident Fund levy. But smokers and drinkers will pay more and sugar and carbon taxes will be going up as well.

Economists have voiced worries over Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s approach to state-owned entities such as Eskom in his budget. To date, Eskom has been given 136 billion rand to pay off its debt until the 2025/26 financial year.

Some economists have also questioned whether it will be enough to provide the much-needed boost in confidence South Africa needs.

The DA says Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana's budget speech did not go far enough to meet the vision presented by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation Address. Godongwana tabled his first Budget Speech before a joint sitting of Parliament yesterday. He also warned that if economic growth doesn't strengthen in the period ahead, then the country will face more difficult fiscal adjustments. Opposition parties have largely welcomed his proposals, describing them as balanced, however, most have argued political constraints have stopped the minister from taking even bolder steps to reduce debt.

While the National Treasury has used the windfall from tax collections to cut some of the country's debt - which has hamstrung the economy for decades - Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana says the burden remains a matter of serious concern. The government will spend 302-billion rand in 2022/2023 on debt service costs, also confirming that it will seek more loans to finance some of its expenditure. This is amid an uproar from some sections of society which have been calling on the government to hold back on borrowing more from international lenders who some feel could pressure South Africa into surrendering its sovereignty.

The police have received a much-needed boost to help in the fight against crime with an extra 8.7 billion rand being added to the police budget. Tabling his maiden budget yesterday, Finance Minister Godongwana said one-billion rand from the allocation will go towards recruitment or "personnel reforms". This follows an earlier announcement in President Cyril Ramaphosa's Sona that resources will be made available to recruit and train an additional 12,000 new police personnel.

One of the alleged criminals linked to this week's dramatic shootout with police in Rosettenville has been arrested in Tembisa. It's believed the suspect opened fire on a police chopper during the chaotic exchange in which 8 of his alleged accomplices were killed. Four police officers were rushed to hospital after the shootout. Law enforcement said 8 of the gang members escaped and now with this latest arrest, officers are still searching for 7 criminals. Four rifles and ammunition were seized during the Tembisa arrest, along with police and G4S vests.

The Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal says it expects Premier Sihle Zikalala's State of the Province Address today to include plans for economic growth and an employment plan. Zikalala is set to deliver his Sopa at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg. The programme will not feature an address by the AmaZulu king as per the norm as there has not been a coronation of the king.

The Durban University of Technology has clarified its vaccination policy. This after pictures of students camping outside the Steve Biko campus this week made rounds on social media. The students claimed that the university is not allowing them inside because they are not vaccinated. But the institution says it has given options when it comes to vaccination.

Trust in the South African police to handle sexual violence cases is at an all-time low. That's the message from several anti-GBV activists, including Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, following the release of the latest crime statistics. For the 2020-21 financial year, police recorded the lowest ever number of those opening sexual offense cases in the last 10 years. But Rape Crisis believes instead of a decline in offenses committed, this in fact indicates a decline in the number of those willing to come forward. Counselling coordinator, Ronel Koekemoer says they've been inundated with survivors seeking help - many of which say they their pleas were first ignored by police.

As fieldworkers struggle getting door-to-door, the census 2022 has been extend until March 20th. Over the last 3 weeks, workers have been trying to collect data on all those currently living in South Africa, including foreign nationals and homeless residents. The country's population is counted every 10 years. Statistics SA Spokesperson, Trevor Oosterwyk, says logistical issues seriously hampered and delayed the start to this year's campaign.

The recording industry of South Africa has joined fans from all over the country in sending condolences to the family and friends of Riky Rick. The multi-award-winning rapper died yesterday at the age of 34.

In other international news, oil prices soared past $100 for the first time in more than seven years on Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "military operation" in Ukraine, apparently realising fears he would invade.

Britain's Prince Harry has launched new legal action against one of the country's biggest newspaper groups, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.